Public Image Limited - "Live at Rockpalast 1983" DVD Review ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Public Image Limited - "Live at Rockpalast 1983" DVD Review

I just finished a review of Michael Schenker Group’s Rockpalast show and what MSG has in common with PiL is that both bands are led by mercurial leaders who change lineups as often as they change shoes. This particular Public Image Limited show was filmed Halloween night in 1983 with the short-lived “cabaret band” lineup. To put some context around this, bassist Pete Jones had left the band in early 1983 and guitarist Keith Levine had left (or was fired, depending on whose story you believe) prior to the band’s Japanese tour. As such, drummer Martin Atkins and producer Bob Miller recruited local NYC musicians Lou Bernardi (bass), Joseph Guida (guitar), and Tom Zvoncheck (keyboard) for the Japanese tour. Zvoncheck left the band prior to the band’s subsequent European tour (to work with BOC’s Albert Bouchard) and he was replaced by Arthur Stead (Frehley’s Commet, Foreigner, etc.) for the European tour which included this Rockpalast show. The “cabaret” tag was given to the band as Atkins had them wear tuxedos on the Japanese tour.

From my perspective, this lineup of the band gets unfairly blamed for the band moving its sound in a more commercially accessible direction. Like many of the bands who recorded in the 80’s, keyboards are prominent in the mix and the band plays with a rock-oriented polish that is comparable to Gang of 4’s evolution once Dave Allen left the band. All-in-all, this 13 song (60 minute) show is very solid and the crowd responds in full pit/pogo mode on the percussive rock-oriented tracks.

PiL gets the crowd moving with an opening 1-2 punch of “Public Image” and “Annalisa” but numbers like Metal Box’s “Chant” seem to take the fight out of the crowd. Lyndon doesn’t allow these slower moments to linger though and, in this case, he fired the crowd back up with a slick run-through of “Anarchy in the UK”.

John Lydon isn’t quite as obnoxious at this show as when I saw the band on the 1982 tour but he does get off a few audience-baiting zingers. He starts the show doing his spastic cheerleader dances and tries singing from in front of the security barricade for “Annalisa”, which nearly got him pulled into the crowd. There is a minimal amount of mugging for the camera with the cockeyed stare that John used to use with Pistols and a few comments about being bored and wanting to go home. Aside for blowing a few “snot rockets” at the audience, John is reasonably well behaved.

The bonus segments on the disc are interesting but somewhat of a mixed bag. There are a few classic one-liners during Lydon’s interview with Rockpalast host Alan Bangs (“I’m an egomaniac – I love being adored”) but, for the most part, John looks bored and abruptly ends the interview with the comment “Is that it?” as he gets up. The two rehearsals tracks “Annalisa” and “Chant” are both interesting but the audio comes through the soundboard and it sounds as through the mix is being balanced during the recording (i.e., there are missing and/or too loud instruments in parts of the audio and Lydon’s vocals are inaudible during the first minute of “Annalisa”).

Set List:
Public Image Limited
Flowers of Romance
Anarchy in the U.K.

(This is Not a) Love Song

Low Life
Under the House
Bad Life
Public Image II (Second run-through)

Just to make a couple of comments about the set list, “Under the House” is particularly impressive as I don’t think I’ve seen this song performed live before so it was fascinating to watch Bernardi and Guida take up positions on opposite sides of the stage and join Atkins on percussion while Lydon wails away. Some of the “oddities” about the set list are that the band opens and closes with spirited run-throughs of “Public Image”. They also leave the stage after “(This is Not a) Love Song” and house music comes over the PA (obviously someone in production thought the show was over) but Lydon quickly returns to the stage with the comment “Turn that tape off!”.

Public Image Ltd.